not pretending that the following is anything new which have not been said before, just some thoughts in my head. and written very fast with hardly any editing, so please be kind and overlook the unprofessional use of language and just focus on the big picture...
the sharp distinctions between "beautiful" and "ugly", and the conformity to these standards in the globalized media saturated world, are not only largely arbitrary and manufactured, but actually designed to play a central role in what i have termed "the artificial rarity of sex as commodity".
to be sure, sex is a commodity in our culture. beyond prostitution, there are countless industries which manufacture countless lines of goods which act as substitutes, are marketed as attraction enhancement, or self esteem boosters -- in fact it is difficult or maybe entirely impossible to disentangle these from the whole of commodity culture itself. and the important required condition for it all to function, which is to say for global capitalism to function, is if the human need for companionship, affection, and sex was somehow made artificially rare.
lonely nights where you cruise around desperate for human contact, we all know what that's like. for dudes its difficult to get a piece of ass without status symbols, for girls, the looks -- it's an entire system constructed of arbitrary and artificial values which regulates social interaction, and isolates people from each other.
and all of this brought into sharp relief by the endless representation of sex everywhere you look, and the endless neurotic obsession with "relationships" in the media. the truth of the following equation i do not doubt: the more representation of sex exists in a culture, the more sexually repressed it is.
it is not difficult to imagine different social organizations where definitions of attractiveness take on much more diverse and individual form, not conforming to an imposed standard of beauty such as what we have. (not difficult to imagine because they exist)
bottom line is that everyone should be fucking. pretty or ugly, fat or thin. all the time. as much as they want. and no one should be made to feel unattractive (or at least to a much lesser extent). we are all people with the same needs, and the system we live in exploit these needs, by deprivation, and at the same time manufacturing artificial desire.
it is a simple dynamic, similar to the way cosmetics industry works: if people are made to feel ugly by comparing themselves to images of ideal beauty, which confront them everywhere and all the time, they will buy more make-up.
but what i have described is of course still a small part of the puzzle. the institution of the nuclear family, and monogamy, very recent forms in human history, of course plays a large, maybe more fundamental, part in this. don't want to ramble on more than i already have, but humans are pack animals, whose "natural" existence is amongst an extended family of 30-60 individuals. a child should be raised by and learn from not 2 adults, but many adults and many peers. and taken away from this way of life, we are already lost, and vulnerable.
someone said once that there are 2 things human beings need: community and autonomy. and in this modern world of ours we have true forms of neither.
a major difference between anglo saxons taking over the world in the last few hundred years and the empires which have come and gone before, is that technology for the first time in history allows the victors to saturate the world with images of themselves.
consider when the Moorish Islamic empire ruled Spain during the middle ages for more than 500 years. a time when Europe was hell on earth, a backward and ignorant world of torture and disease with no running water and no toilettes, a time when North African culture was at the height of civilization, with progressive social values and high standards of living, arts and sciences blooming, when the wealthy in Europe sent their kids to Spain to be educated -- i have not read anthropological studies but it only makes sense at that time North African features were considered beautiful, and Europeans imitated the latest fashion of the Moors.
it is these larger forces of history and the resulting social realities, the effects of which in our age exponentially exaggerated by the advent of global media saturation, largely make up what we think is beautiful. (there are of course other factors such as white being a symbol of purity in many traditional cultures... but i am against any kind of essentialist notions. does that make me a behaviorist?)
so today it is thin noses and pale skin, more or less waspy features being the most desireable, but this will surely change...